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February 11, 2013

Host: Ted Simons

Betsey Bayless Pay Raise

  |   Video
  • Betsey Bayless, the head of the Maricopa Integrated Health System, a public hospital system for the poor, received a $125,000 raise, bringing her salary to $500,000. Arizona Republic Columnist Laurie Roberts will discuss the raise.
  • Laurie Roberts - Columnist, Arizona Republic
Category: Community   |   Keywords: bayless, health, system, Arizona Republic, ,

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Ted Simons: The head of Maricopa County's public hospital for the poor is getting a $125,000 raise, which brings her salary to a half million dollars. Many are questioning the pay raise, including "Arizona Republic" columnist Laurie Roberts. What is Maricopa Integrated Health System?

Laurie Roberts: Basically it's the charity hospital we have in the community, and apparently there is some good money to be made in the charity hospital industry, to get that sort of a raise. It's just mind-boggling. Any sort of a raise anymore is pretty good.

Ted Simons: Is this a governmental agency, quasi governmental?

Laurie Roberts: Not quasi, it is an arm of Maricopa County, has it's own separate entity and board and taxing authority. You and I helped pay for this, along with other things that help figure into charity hospital events. It's an enormous mind-boggling raise. I want to know where I get one.

Ted Simons: Back to defining terms, who sits on the board, who decides who sits on the board?

Laurie Roberts: The board is a five-member board, much like the five-member Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, elected from five supervisory districts set up as political jurisdictions within the county. It's the same for this board and we elect them. We just elected three new ones, a new majority.

Ted Simons: Betsey Bayless --

Laurie Roberts: She's been there about seven years at the hospital.

Ted Simons: We're talking a raise from $375,000 to $500,000.

Laurie Roberts: That's a 33% increase. And this is her base pay, by the way. It would affect other things on top of that, any other bonuses would be affected by that, as well.

Ted Simons: What were the reasons for such a raise?

Laurie Roberts: Because she works hard and she deserves it.

Ted Simons: And that's it?

Laurie Roberts: That's pretty much it. She has had only one raise in the time she's been here. One of the board members tells me if she had gotten consistent raises she would probably be at $500,000 anyway. They say that's the going rate or still a little low even for a public hospital administrator. The thing that is so odd about it, besides just the timing, and the thing that's so curious about it, she's on her way out. You give a raise to someone to keep them. She's already announced she's retiring. They decided on her own, she apparently didn't ask for it. It's a brand-new board of Betsey Bayless supporters. They decided on their own that she was worth it.

Ted Simons: Why are they Betsey Bayless supporters?

Laurie Roberts: They were specifically encouraged to run against sitting board members. To understand, you have to go back to the middle of last summer when Betsey Bayless suddenly sprang on the board that she wanted to put a bond issue on the ballot and she needed immediate approval. They wanted to build a new public hospital downtown. The Board said, we need more time, a public hearing, and besides that, some people think the thing to do is not to put that kind of money into a third redundant hospital downtown, but instead to put it into clinics around the county. The board said no, we're not going to do this. Several months later Betsey Bayless announced she would be retiring at the end of the year. Some people got together and found new people to run against the board members. The chairman is Michael Cowley, he heads the nonprofit arm of the hospital. He also is interested in building this downtown hospital. He said the old board members did not have the vision to bring this county district forward. Which I interpret to mean they weren't going to approve the billion-dollar bond issue. Now we have a new board filled with people, I would suspect -- Well, clearly they are big Betsey Bayless supporters. I'm assuming there won't be too many more months before we start to hear about this billion-dollar hospital we need again.

Ted Simons: Is she still planning to leave?

Laurie Roberts: She is. She took a contract for another year to give them time to find her replacement. I guess it takes about five months to find a replacement. On the very last day of the year she announced, knowing there would be a new board, she announced she was going stay on for another year. Now in one of the first board meetings that they have, they are only a month old, this board, they approved this monstrosity of a pay increase.

Ted Simons: Is this, though -- and if she is going to leave, I'm assuming eventually she's going to leave.

Laurie Roberts: I wouldn't, not for $500,000. I mean, I wouldn't leave.

Ted Simons: Okay. But if the going rate -- if that's a valid argument, $500,000 a year is the going rate for this kind of a physician, why not bump her pay there so that the next person applying sees that salary and says, all right, now we're talking business.

Laurie Roberts: In the documents they have had to fill out, they have already set that as the minimum salary they will offer for the next person. I don't know why the salary of the person on their way out would have an impact on the person coming in. That's the minimum salary they are offering next time.

Ted Simons: If she's only had one raise in seven years and people on the board and others say it's the right thing to do, why not?

Laurie Roberts: Well, public hospitals have said for a long time that they are suffering, that they don't have enough money. We have gone through this thing with AHCCCHS and Medicaid and everything else. I would think the CEO would be the last to get a raise of this sort. They keep saying, she works so hard, and she absolutely does. Betsey Bayless has been around a long time, a highly regarded administrator, elected public official, no doubt she works hard. But who over at the hospital doesn't work hard? Do the janitors, the doctors, the nurses, the cafeteria ladies? It just is unseemly to give this sort of raise, especially to someone who is leaving.

Ted Simons: Last question: Do you see a connection between this $1 billion proposed hospital for downtown -- is it generally perceived that this third hospital downtown is needed?

Laurie Roberts: I don't believe it's generally perceived that way. If you ask the other two hospitals, they will say it's not needed. They need a place to train doctors and all, but I'm not sure that's a good enough reason to spend a billion dollars building this hospital. I'm not against it, I just thought it was rush to try to put it before the voters this year. Obviously the old board did, too, and now they are gone.

Ted Simons: What is the response to all of this?

Laurie Roberts: People are pretty outraged. Far be it from anyone to get a 33% -- well, David got a 33% raise, too, over at Phoenix City Hall. But I think most people are pretty outraged.

Ted Simons: Good to see you, thanks for joining us.

Laurie Roberts: Good to be here.

Heroes and Superheroes in Culture

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  • Project Humanities at Arizona State University will launch its spring kickoff series “Heroes, Superheroes, and Superhumans,” February 10-16 to examine what constitutes heroes and heroism in pop culture and everyday life. Tony Parker, a Marvel and DC Comic artist and professor of Art at Phoenix College, will discuss the series and the topic of heroes.
  • Tony Parker - Marvel, DC Comic Artist and Professor of Art, Phoenix College
Category: The Arts   |   Keywords: superhero, hear, culture, arts, ASU, ,

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Ted Simons: ASU's Project Humanities is conducting a week-long series of events titled "Heros, Superheros, and Superhumans." It's a look at what constitutes heros and heroism in popular culture. Tony Parker, a Marvel and D.C. Comic artist and professor of art at Phoenix College is hereto discuss the series.

Tony Parker: I think it's really important to know and study what you're working with. I'm also a working professional, and I know exactly what I can take from the academic knowledge and use that for my professional side.

Ted Simons: So basically use it as a grounding for your art and your stories.

Tony Parker: As well, know more what works on a subconscious or academic level.

Ted Simons: What is a superhero?

Tony Parker: Someone who stands up for what they believe in and what is right. Within comics, with metaphor, it's much easier to digest. Batman works so well because he's mostly masked, in a costume. Same with Spiderman. Therefore anyone can identify with them.

Ted Simons: Interesting.

Tony Parker: The villains aren't just there to beat people up. Batman's Rogues' Gallery, each one is a metaphor for something that could be considered negative to society. You have Bane, a criminally intelligent drug dealer on steroids. You have the Joker, who is instability. There are so many of them that work on a metaphoric level, as well.

Ted Simons: Isn't that -- I never thought of the mask as being something that would allow to us better identify. I thought they just wore masks.

Tony Parker: In the story, it's so that they can keep themselves safe and friends and families safe. From a viewership standpoint, it's much easier to identify with someone. It's one of the reasons the NFL is so popular.

Ted Simons: So with that in mind, does a hero have to be exceptional? If we're identifying with them, are they doing something we either wish we could do or --

Tony Parker: There has to be a concept, but it doesn't have to be pure physicality or one aspect. It has to be the spirit of the hero. The X-men, Charles Xavier, he's been wheelchair bound. He's got a disability, but he's found his own way to make things work for him.

Ted Simons: Again, is the concept of heroism and the concept of people who can take a limit or some sort of a liability and make it work for them, has that changed over time?

Tony Parker: In specifics, yes. In general, no. Specifically, the early superheros, the Batman, Superman, were very iconic characters, very easy to identify with. What made Spiderman and the X-men so popular, they were troubled people. They were trying to figure out their place in the world. Spiderman had lost his family and was bullied a lot. They were much more well-rounded characters.

Ted Simons: We have a still of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. This was adapted into "Bladerunner."

Tony Parker: It was a loose adaptation of it. The project was up for one of the top comic book awards, essentially the Oscar for comics. We worked with the Philip K. Dick estate to do an adaptation of that novel.

Ted Simons: That's remarkable work and it's a remarkable piece of work.

Ted Simons: It's very different than, I'm going to go get the Joker at Gotham City.

Tony Parker: It's a great way to get people to read a great sci-fi book. Every word in it is in the graphic novel. It's a way to introduce people to science fiction, as well.

Ted Simons: How do science fiction and heroes and the whole nine yards, how does that fit in with myth?

Tony Parker: They are the modern myth. They are the people that do the things we can't. If you go with a Gilgamesh, half god and half human, they do these things normal people can't do. It shows that impossible odds can be completed and done usually with a virtuous spirit and aspirations.

Ted Simons: That looked like myth and then some.

Tony Parker: My friend did an absolutely beautiful job with it.

Ted Simons: It's King Conan. Again, you say Conan and you used to say the barbarian. Now a host to talk about, as well. Talk to us about this particular character, this particular series. Can you change someone as familiar as Conan?

Tony Parker: You can't. The best metaphor is the suit. You can change the lapel or the collar or take it in and out, but you can't change the suit altogether. You can find the primal aspects that work. Conan is still very much a survivor. You modify them to fit what the modern guys did.

Ted Simons: The modern Zeitgeist in terms of pop culture?

Tony Parker: If you go to other parts of the world and go to Japan and Europe, they are a much more respected art form than just the genre. Once things are worth so much more than that, it's one of the reasons the Avengers movie, the Batman and Superman movies are so popular. They are recognizable. They translate throughout.

Ted Simons: What do you want folks to take from the week-long session?

Tony Parker: I want them to ask questions, think more about graphic novels as so much more than they walked into it with.

Ted Simons: Fascinating stuff, good to have you here, thanks for joining us.

Tony Parker: Thanks for having me.

Sales Tax Revisions

  |   Video
  • Governor Jan Brewer will announce a sales tax simplification bill, hoping to fix what she calls the most complicated sales tax in the nation. Arizona State University Economist Dennis Hoffman will discuss the proposal.
  • Dennis Hoffman - Economist, Arizona State University
Category: Business/Economy   |   Keywords: sales, tax, taxes, revisions, ,

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Ted Simons: The Governor announced a plan to simplify the Maricopa County tax system. The legislation will give business owners a single point of contact for payment and audit. The Governor, along with the bill's sponsor and a businessman talked about the changes at a press conference today.

Ted Simons: Here now to help explain what Arizona's transaction privilege tax is and what these changes might bring is Arizona State University economist Dennis Hoffman. Good to see you again.

Dennis Hoffman: Great to be here, Ted.

Ted Simons: Tax system needs reform?

Dennis Hoffman: Oh, yes, true. I was not an official member of the task force, but I did chair a working group so I was down there for a lot of these meetings. A lot of the theme, Ted, is around the costs to businesses. People may hear this, well, okay, I see that our businesses have to sort this out and it's onerous. And this testimony I think was very illustrative. People have to remember, those business costs get passed down to consumers. When there's distortions during the proceedings, it's when businessmen and women have to allocate resources inefficiently so as to comply with tax rules and administration. That's what we have going on in Arizona.

Ted Simons: The Governor wants one form, one point of contact, one audit. Obviously it's more complicated than that right now. What are folks looking out for here?

Dennis Hoffman: Well, you know, the history of this, I really think it's a situation where actually a minority of the cities in the state, the big ones, by the way, these cities took it upon themselves to audit and administer taxes in their own right. And there was no clear legislation coming down from the legislature that prevented them from doing that. It resulted in just this very complex array of different structures, administrative rules, audit rules, audit triggers. It really is complex. This is not overstating it. We're one of four states out of step in the union. I think of the four others Arizona is probably the most complex. I think this representative is right on the mark. Ours is the worst in the nation.

Ted Simons: I know cities and towns are not exactly excited about this. If you lose an extra point, they could be the backup, and plus money they might get could be lost in the system or never get there in the first place.

Dennis Hoffman: I get it, I heard that argument. I caution the cities if they block this somehow. I guess the adage would be, they might be throwing the baby out with the bath water here. They might be giving up some very good things if they decide that they want to block this. I say if the efficiencies could be seized in this particular system, if resources could be allocated more efficiently, certainly there's going to be price relief coming through the market to our consumers, and those businesses will be able to hire more people to produce the products and services that they are good at. Finally it opens up the door to online and remote sales.

Ted Simons: Talk more about that, it seems like a big deal.

Dennis Hoffman: That is a very big deal.

Ted Simons: What exactly are we talking about here?

Dennis Hoffman: Our brick and mortar retailers are the biggest advocate for opening up taxation of online and remote sales. Quite logically, they are at a disadvantage, it may be just more efficient to market on line, warehouse it, and then ship it to another state. The economics side on the side of the online and remote as it stands. Then up add on the tax differential. You've got a cost advantage and then you layer on this tax advantage.

Ted Simons: But correct me if I'm wrong, Congress would have to okay eventually --

Dennis Hoffman: True, but it appears to be moving in that front. They can open up the door to online and remote taxation. If we don't take the steps to simplify our tax code, we're not going to be eligible for this.

Ted Simons: Cities and towns will not be upset with this and they are not crazy about it. Food, advertising, commercial leases, contracting, these sorts of things. Once this is implemented, and it looks like it has bipartisan support in the legislature --

Dennis Hoffman It does.

Ted Simons: -- we are going to see radical changes in city revenues?

Dennis Hoffman: I think this lays the groundwork for a more stable, predictable sales tax regime. The big debate in this proposal is about the contractor tax, and some of the fast-growing cities are afraid they are going to lose some of the contracting revenues that they have been counting on. But Ted, a rational city has got to base their budget on a more predictable revenue stream than contractor. It's lost 60% since the mid 2000s. You've got to have a more rational, sensible way of paying for the services people want. I think that's what the city should be doing.

Ted Simons: Thanks for joining us.

Dennis Hoffman: Great to be here, Ted.